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How to apply for a sponsor licence

If you are a UK-based employer looking to hire skilled workers from overseas, you will need to apply for a sponsor licence.

This licence allows you to sponsor and employ non-British and non-settled workers in the UK. In this article, we will guide you through the sponsor licence application process, from application submission to application review. We will also provide you with some useful tips to ensure a smooth process and discuss the duties and responsibilities that come with being a licensed sponsor.

Sponsor Licence Application Process

The sponsor licence application process can be broken down into three main steps: eligibility check, application submission, and application review. Each of these steps is crucial to the success of your application and requires careful attention and preparation.

Eligibility Check

Before you begin the application process, it is important to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for a sponsor licence. These criteria include:

  • Your business must be based in the UK
  • You must have a genuine need for skilled workers from outside the UK
  • You must be able to provide evidence of your business’s financial stability
  • You must have appropriate HR systems in place to manage sponsored workers
  • You must be able to comply with all sponsor duties and responsibilities

If you meet these criteria, you can proceed with the application process. It is important to note that this does not guarantee the success of your application, but it is a necessary first step.  If any concerns are brought to light when considering the criteria, it is sensible to carry out a pre-application audit to understand the remedial action required before applying.

Understanding the Sponsor Licence

Before you proceed with the application, it is also important to understand what a sponsor licence is and what it entails. A sponsor licence is a permission granted by the Home Office, specifically UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) that allows employers to employ skilled workers from outside the UK. It is a mandatory requirement for employers who wish to hire such workers and is subject to certain conditions and responsibilities.

Application Submission

To apply for a sponsor licence, you will need to complete an online application form on the website. This form will require you to provide detailed information about your business, including its structure, history and activities.

You will also need to provide information about the people within the organisation who will be responsible for managing the sponsor licence and your sponsored workers after their visas have been granted.

Once you have completed the online application form, you will need to pay the relevant application fee. The fee will depend on the size of your business and the type of sponsor licence you are applying for.

Preparing Your Documents

In addition to completing the online application form, you will also need to prepare and submit a number of supporting documents. These documents will provide evidence that your business is operating lawfully, is a genuine organisation and capable of fulfilling its sponsor duties.  Included with the documents is a cover letter in which you must provide detailed information regarding the business, the job roles and number of workers you intend to sponsor and sites to be included on your licence. The exact documents required will depend on the nature of your business and the type of sponsor licence you are applying for.

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Application Review

After you have submitted your application, it will be reviewed by UKVI. This process can take up to 8 weeks, so it is important to submit your application well in advance of when you need to start sponsoring workers.

A priority service is available for an additional payment however this can be very difficult to secure.

During the review process, UKVI may request additional information or documents to support your application. It is important to respond to these requests promptly to avoid delays in the application process.

If your application is successful, you will receive an ‘A’ rated sponsor licence. Being downgraded to a ‘B’ rating can be detrimental for the business and the people you sponsor so it is important that this status is maintained.

Application Submission Tips

To ensure a smooth and successful sponsor license application process, here are some tips to keep in mind when submitting your application:

  • Review the guidance to understand the mandatory documents and information to be provided.
  • Double-check all information and documents before submitting to avoid any errors or omissions.
  • Make sure all key personnel nominated in the application have the necessary knowledge and skills to fulfil their responsibilities, as well as clear background checks.
  • Submit all supporting documents within the specified timeframe.
  • Make sure you understand which fee is payable by your organisation so that your application is not delayed.
  • Keep track of the progress of your application and respond promptly to any requests for additional information.
  • If you are unsure about any aspect of the application process, seek advice from a professional immigration advisor.

Additional Tips for a Successful Application

In addition to the above tips, here are some additional suggestions to increase your chances of a successful application:

  • Start the application process well in advance of when you need to start sponsoring workers. This will give you ample time to prepare your application and respond to any requests for additional information.
  • Keep the application simple, provide all necessary information but not unnecessary detail.
  • Keep a record of all communications with UKVI. This will be useful in case of any misunderstandings.
  • Be honest and transparent in your application. Any attempts to mislead or provide false information can result in the rejection of your application and a 12 month cooling off period before you can re-apply.

Sponsor Duties and Responsibilities

As a licenced sponsor, you have certain duties and responsibilities that you must fulfil. These include:

  • Keeping records of sponsored workers, including their contact details, immigration documents, and absences from work.
  • Reporting any changes to sponsored workers’ employment, such as job role, hours or salary.
  • Complying with UK immigration laws and regulations.
  • Cooperating with UKVI in any compliance checks or audits.
  • Informing UKVI of any significant changes to your business, such as mergers or acquisitions.

It is important to understand and comply with these duties and responsibilities to maintain your sponsor licence and avoid revocation or any penalties.

Understanding the Consequences of Non-Compliance

In addition to understanding your role as a sponsor, it is also important to be aware of the consequences of non-compliance. UKVI can carry out announced and unannounced audits at your premises at any time and instances of non-compliance can trigger a variety of sanctions including fines, director disqualification, imprisonment, and the removal of your sponsor licence.


Applying for a sponsor licence can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it is necessary if you want the opportunity to recruit staff from overseas and retain talented individuals who are already in the UK with a visa. By following the steps outlined in this article and keeping in mind the tips and responsibilities, you can increase your chances of a successful application and maintain a compliant and responsible sponsorship program. Remember to seek professional advice if you are unsure about any aspect of the application process.

Contact our expert team of immigration solicitors who can advise you on the specifics of your required documents and help you avoid any stress throughout the sponsor licence application process.

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    Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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